• Mathura Hawley


Updated: Aug 2, 2021

I had watched every airing of A Star is Born, and knew each song and word of the script, quietly acting out the scenes with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson... "

Summer nights were the only moments I ever felt at peace. After the age of 13, my anxiety and weight gain exploded and my self-confidence completely disappeared. Summer was a reprieve from ever tighter clothing and the degradation of twice a week gym class, replaced by the ease of cut-off jean shorts and bare feet. My mood switched from worry and night sweats to the backyard pool after dark, my favorite time to swim, and staying up late to watch R-rated movies after my parents went to bed. I would look at the glossy HBO guide that came with our monthly bill and circle the movies I wanted to sneak. I created fake marks so I could note the films I wasn’t allowed to see, hoping that my mother would be tired that night and leave me alone to quietly click the red button on the cable box after she climbed the stairs. I had watched every airing of A Star is Born, and knew each song and word of the script, quietly acting out the scenes with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, singing Barbra’s songs into the sofa pillow I had pulled onto the floor where I lay in front of the TV. I knew each scene so well I could recite the entire movie, sometimes reliving moments in my head to lull myself to sleep later. When Esther is pushed in front of an arena of people to perform and is finally seen and accepted for the first time in her life, I wished it was me. When John Norman spray paints her name on the stairway wall of his house, I tried to imagine what it would be like to have someone love me. The night before school resumed, the movie played once more, this time on network TV, and I was upstairs in my bedroom watching the finale, the last scene where Esther sings for her independence after John Norman dies and leaves her alone. She realizes she is strong enough - by herself - to survive a lifetime of pain and rejection because she can now accept who she is - a beautiful person who is unique, talented and lovable. “With one more look at you, I could learn to tame the clouds and let the sun shine through, leave a troubled past and I might start anew….” It was the last time I would live through this moment with Esther before my own hell was to begin again the next morning, and I think I knew it wasn’t going to end anytime soon. There was pain and darkness in my young heart, and no triumphant “finale” in sight for me - I looked ahead and saw nothing. My mother burst into my room, mid-song. “It’s time to go to bed for school tomorrow,” she declared, staring at me. I felt so violated and misunderstood and lonely, that this secret, intimate moment had been taken from me, that I began to cry and ran down the stairs and out of the house. “What’s the matter?!” she yelled, running after me. I ran up the street and down Floral Avenue, sobbing. A few minutes later, she rolled up next to me in our blue Chevy, the window already down. “Honey, what is wrong with you?” How could I explain. I believed I would never have a love like Esther and John Norman. I couldn’t even see myself worthy of anyone’s touch. She got out of the car, and without saying a word, she hugged me.

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